Pioneer Interview with Barqo

Barqo is a person-to-person boatsharing platform from the Netherlands. It makes sailing accessible and more sustainable by connecting people who own boats with people who want to rent a boat. Floris van Hoogenhuyze shares his ideas and inspirations for starting Barqo with Dutch curator, Harmen van Sprang.

What inspired you to start Barqo?
Our world is filled with boats: over 24 million for recreational use. These boats are not being used 93% of the time, with packed harbors as a result. Boat owners cannot use their boats as much as they would like, still they pay high fees for harbor dues, taxes, maintenance and insurance.

On the other side there are a lot of people who want to sail, but they simply cannot afford a boat or don’t have people in their network who own a boat. We recognized the problem and built a solution!

We chase a world in which anyone can free their inner captain. A place where people are brought together, sharing the same interests and goals, a place where you can make sailing accessible to everybody. A platform with the message: ‘Free Your Inner Captain!’

What is the business model of Barqo?
Per booking we charge 15% service fee on the boat owners side. Via a booking on our platform each sailing trip is trusted, reliable and safe with on-the water towing and assistance 24/7.

What has been a challenge(s) for Barqo?
The biggest challenge we experienced yet was fundraising. Although we successfully raised 2 small seed rounds at the start of our adventure, we experienced that it is tough in The Netherlands to raise above 100k.

A lot of early stage VC’s loved the idea but eventually told us that we were too early stage for them and should come back in 2016 when we raised via Angels. Eventually we came in contact with a group of experienced Angels, all with a serious trackrecord. They believed in our team and are now aboard as investors and experienced advisors. They are capable of bringing Barqo to the next level with us.

What’s ahead for Barqo?
In November 2015 we launched our brand new platform and raised a serious amount of funding. We are now able to execute several offline and online marketing campaigns. Since we achieved to acquire 3000 boats abroad (outside The Netherlands) we are not seasonally dependent and our focus now also extends to the sailing holiday market. We strongly focus on Dutch users and the summer holiday bookings peak in December, January, February and March.

We did research into this market and it appeared to be huge. In the past 7 years it has grown 40% to an amount of 358.000 boat holiday bookings a year with no good online solution yet. Barqo will be the platform that will disrupt this market online!

In March/ April 2016 the Dutch sailing season will start again. We aspire to triple our amount of domestic P2P bookings in 2016 compared to 2015. In this process we have a strong focus in optimizing our online data analysis. We want to accurately determine our CPA’s per channel.

Where do you envision for Barqo in three to five years?
Barqo will be the most accessible European P2P boat sharing platform with a big variety of boats around the world!

To achieve this we have several objectives: 1. Create more fun, transparency and accessibility in a conservative market, 2.Create a new market with people who are now able to sail without owning a boat, 3. Create an awesome work environment with a diverse inspiring team.

What is your favourite Barqo ‘member story’?
Amongst our favorite users-story is the one of a family that rented a boat last June. They were planning to cruise the canals of Amsterdam with a sloop.

About half an hour after they set sail, the family came across a boat they recognized. It turned out, this used to be their own boat, which they unfortunately had to sell some time ago.

It was too costly for this family to keep their boat, including demurrage and maintenance cost.

However, they never lost their desire of sailing.

So when they saw their own boat again, the family started talking to the people aboard.

After a quick chat, they exchanged information and it turned out the new owners had listed the boat on our platform. This made it possible for the family to rent their old boat, which they did.

What is your advice to other startups in the collaborative (or: sharing) economy?
* Don’t think that once you’ve developed your platform, that your user base and offer doesn’t grow by itself because you have a cool product and had 1 or 2 media publications. Very hard work is still required and you have to stay top of mind!

* Fundraising and development of your platform can be time consuming. But never lose your focus on sales, marketing and PR. If your product is not complete to your feeling, don’t hesitate to express yourself and tell your story.

What is your advice to traditional companies and corporations?
Don’t underestimate the force of disruption. Young creative minds are capable of achieving goals with a small team in a little time frame. Especially the power they have to make quick decisions and adapt fast gives always gives a head start. And I guess.. if you can’t beat them, join them:)

Why does the collaborative (or: sharing) economy have the future?
Accessible, scalable, it gets the entrepreneurs instinct out of anybody, but above all.. It’s more fun!

What is a final insight you’d like to share with us?
The entrepreneurs’ life always seems beautiful on the outside with high peaks,but when you start you have to count in some deep troughs. They will definitely be experienced. At that moment you have to keep faith in yourself, your product, but above all…in the team!

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